Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback and former Newton High School football star Demetrius McCray is gearing up for his third season in the NFL and he’s hoping that it’ll be his best yet.
“Nothing’s gone be given to you. You gotta work for what you want,” McCray said humbly. “Coming up in a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta you just gotta work for whatever you get. That’s what [Covington] taught me.”
Last year, McCray started 12 games finishing the season with 49 tackles and three pass deflections, but he’s yet to get his first career interception. McCray will have to fight to start this season. The Jags signed former Green Bay corner Davon House in the off-season and he along with the rest of the Jacksonville secondary are all fighting for a starting job. Personally, McCray thinks this can be his breakout season.
“Most definitely,” McCray said. “I got a better understanding of the game and I got a lot of experience under my belt, but I can always have more. I really think that if I keep doing what I do and take it up to another notch going into camp then I think it’ll be a pretty good season this year.”
Defensive back drills and ladders have been a staple of McCray’s off-season workouts. He wants to be in peak condition heading into training camp, which begins August 1.
“I just gotta keep working. I put in about five days out the week I work and try to prepare my body for camp and maintain my strength and my speed. I also try to perfect my craft,” McCray said.
The biggest adjustment for McCray, he says, in his transition to the NFL was the amount of free time he had.
“I was still kind of figuring out things in my first year,” McCray said.
“Nobody’s there just to watch over you. You gotta work out on your own, you gotta stay in shape on your own, you just gotta remember that it’s your job now. It’s your job to stay in shape, your job to workout, do all your drills and perfect your craft. That was an adjustment for me,” McCray said.
In his first year, McCray mostly played special teams before finishing the season as a starter in his second year which began against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers.
When asked if he was in awe of any of the players he was up against in his first start like Big Ben or Antonio Brown McCray said, “You can’t think like that. If you think like that you’re gonna start getting wowed by them and you can’t do that. They’re normal people and it’s just another opportunity for you to get better. You’re just facing another guy out there. Nobody’ s Superman out there so that’s how I look at it.”
Last year was McCray’s first real opportunity to show the team what he’s got and it resulted in him finishing the season as the starter. He knew he’d have an opportunity and he capitalized on it.
“After year one going into the off-season I just made a commitment. I was like I’m gonna perfect my craft and I always knew I would get an opportunity to start somewhere in that season. I didn’t know exactly how long, it could’ve been one game or the whole season, but I just prepared myself like, ‘I’m gonna start some time this season.’ That’s what prepared me for last season,” McCray added.
Now he’s armed with '12 games of experience as a starter and he’s had three off-seasons to learn how to prepare.
“When I began I was real raw,” McCray said. “I was still kind of learning the position when I first got drafted. I had played the position four years in college but I was still learning. I hadn’t been taught at a pro level before so I was still kind of learning the in and outs of the position.”
McCray says he keeps up with his former school, Newton, talking with some of the players through social media, but he hasn’t had the chance to attend a game since college.
These days Newton has more than a handful of Division-I prospects. When asked what advice he would give current players, McCray said, “Just stay focused. You going to school to be in school first then be an athlete. So you just gotta stay in your books so you can remain in school and always remember that football is a privilege. You not required to play football there, you went to school to go to school.”